By Mary B. Ingram
The Bay City Public Library situated at the corner of Fifth Street and Avenue H, originated in 1912. Many dedicated citizens were instrumental in providing library services for the community.
Thomas H. Lewis, a young lawyer, became the first superintendent of Matagorda County Schools in 1908, and he initiated interest for a circulating library among area patrons. The Bay City Library Association was formed in 1912 and books were first issued to Bay Citians twice a week from a cubbyhole niche in the J. P. Keller Insurance Company at a site on the downtown courthouse square. Interested citizens joined the library association and the first nine elected to the Board of Directors were Thomas H. Lewis, D. P. Moore, Mrs. F. H. Jones, Mrs. E. J. Kilbride, Henry Rugeley, Mrs. S. A. Lewis, G. A. Moore, Mrs. Hallie Bryan Perry and Miss Florence Bouldin. Mayor John Sutherland tried to help the association obtain a Carnegie library for the city, but the request was denied due to Bay City’s small population.
Accordingly, the group worked to raise funds and purchase land on which to build their own library. The deed to the library lots “all of lot No. 6 and the north half of lot No. 5 in Block 117 in town of Bay City, Texas” was made out to Thomas H. Lewis, Trustee for Bay City Library Association from B. E. Norvell and E. E. Ruse, dated October 31, 1913. Construction on a 75 x 40 frame building was soon begun and was completed in 1914 from lumber handpicked by Mayor John Sutherland who also happened to be manager of Alamo Lumber Co. The Association’s meager supply of books was moved to the new building and the library was formerly opened to the public early in 1915. The charter was filed August 18, 1915.
The first librarian in the new library building was Miss Josephine McCullough, who was appointed by Mrs. Emmett Perry and served from 1915 until 1918 when she married T. A. Williams. Her mother-in-law, Mrs. Andrew Williams, took over the librarian’s post to be followed by Mrs. Grover Moore, Mrs. E. J. Kilbride and Mrs. H. A. Blaylock.
Throughout the years the members of the Bay City Library Association struggled with the finances to keep the library opened for the community. In the earlier years the group sponsored dances, raffled pictures, sold hamburgers, staged a benefit show, and had twelve lots donated for the benefit of the library. The Wesley Bible Class of First United Methodist Church met in the library building from 1915 until 1939 and once was reprimanded for their lack of neatness.
In 1921, Irby Stinnett was elected secretary of the association. She stated in her minutes “…while a recent membership drive for funds is not completed; enough money has been raised to make the treasurer feel comfortable.” In 1923, $200 was spent for books, and great impetus was given the Association’s efforts when Judge John M. Corbett donated twelve lots to the library to help raise funds. Evidently, they proved successful for the 1926 minutes show the Association had spent $105, issued 2,679 books and $22.76 was collected in fines.
Evidently, some of the Corbett lots were raffled off in 1927. Miss Iris Darby was noted as one holding the lucky number of Lot No. 3. During the year, 3,892 books were circulated and $29.47 collected in fines. In 1928 W. M. Martin won one of the lots in a contest. The librarian was allotted $2.00 per months for cleaning and sweeping the building and $5.00 a month was paid to a young lad by the name of Beadle Moore for yard work.
In 1936, Mrs. Arthur Harris, board member, appeared before the City Council asking for financial assistance. The City agreed to give $25 monthly and the City Water Works gave $300 as a contribution. In 1937 the Association sponsored a series of book reviews by Eleanor Sims of Houston. These book reviews evolved into the Bay City Book Review Club.
The Daily Tribune, the local newspaper, raised money through its daily column, “Mirth,” which was written by the editor and a board member, Carey Smith, Jr.
By 1955, the city of Bay City was budgeting $1000 toward the support of the library. The Bay City Gas Company began plans for the construction of a new library building. The building was completed in 1958. Part of the building was leased to Southwestern Bell Telephone Company which brought extra income to the library. The Junior Service League volunteered their services which made it possible to keep the library opened six days a week. Friends of the Library organized in 1977 and volunteered their services in many ways to assist the library program.
The library is known today as the “Bay City Public Library,” but is still operated under the directors of the Bay City Library Association. Both city and county contribute to the upkeep of the library; the city budgeting $25,000; Matagorda County $60,000. In the fall of 1987 the Library became a part of the Houston Area Library System and has grown from that small front store library of a few books in 1912 to a collection of 37,992 items in its collection.
narrative was written in 1988 as a part of the application for the Texas
State historical marker.]
Copyright 2011 -
Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
Sep. 13, 2011
Jan. 2, 2013